Since, the Federative Republic of Brazil split from Portugal’s colonial grasp in 1822, they’ve never stopped growing. Spawned from an agricultural-based economy during its European-disrupted history, the Brazil of today is a vastly improving nation with a progressive and innovative economy. While social issues still plague parts of modern Brazil, these are not enough to deter millions of tourists from visiting this swinging South American holiday hotspot every year.
Among its many natural treasures, Brazil hosts a plethora of unsurpassed marvels that need to be seen to be believed. The Iguacu Falls in the southwest, northern Brazil’s Amazon jungle, sparkling sun-kissed beaches along the eastern coastline, rugged peaks in the far west, and vast wetland reserves in the south make up a selection of Brazil’s finest masterpieces.
Visiting Brazil between December and March is the ideal time to embrace Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Carnival and the warm fiesta atmosphere of the country’s hottest weather. The beaches around Brazil’s southeastern coastline become packed with visitors in the summer and the hottest months in the southeast also boast the longest daylight hours, with winter days significantly shorter. Between Christmas and Carnival (February), Brazil experiences its high season. Hotels and airline tickets are extremely expensive, and visitors will need to book their accommodations well in advance.
Currency: Brazilian Real
Official language: Spanish
Portuguese settlers began colonizing parts of Brazil during the end of the 16th century. This was unique in that much of South America and the New World were settled by Spanish explorers at the time. During the 17th century, Dutch explorers arrived to several parts of the country too, not recognizing Portuguese rule.
Thriving from the sugar cane industry, the Dutch aimed to continue settlements, despite Portuguese hostility. Dutch and Portuguese forces fought in jungle warfare in the 1650’s, leading to the expulsion of the Dutch from their territory. However, a war with Dutch armies off the coast of Portugal in the 1660’s eventually led to Portugal losing its Asian colonies. Meanwhile, Brazil became solely a Portuguese colony.
In 1808, following two centuries of Portuguese colonization, Brazil became the center of their vast empire. Napoleon invaded Portugal at the height of his reign, forcing King Dom Joao VI to flee to Rio de Janeiro. Subsequently, Rio became the political and economic heart of the empire until 1821.
The 19th century was also a turbulent yet significant chapter in Brazil’s history. Brazilian independence from Portugal was granted in 1822, although Dom Pedro II of Portugal ruled the empire. Brazil was involved in several wars following the next five decades, including the Platine War, Paraguayan War and Uruguayan War. Slavery was abolished in 1888, 28 years after the slave trade ceased operations. In 1889, the empire was toppling, giving way to a republic, which ended all colonial-related leadership in Brazil.
Despite a fractured political system during the 20th century, Brazil continued to prosper with its sugar, coffee, and rubber industries, accompanied by a large labor market. Migration of German, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian nationals added to the labor force, aiding Brazil’s economic growth. The country rose to prominence in the mid-1900’s, becoming South America’s economic tiger and surpassing Mexico and Argentina as the region’s most powerful nation.
In 1988, democracy finally became a mainstream concept for Brazil, following several decades of military involvement in the national government. Even though high-level corruption, social inequalities and high crime still affect the country today, Brazil is continues to develop and is earmarked as a potential world power. Much of Brazil’s colonial history is captured within Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum of History (Praca Marechal Ancora, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, 20021-200), or the Museum of the Republic (Old Presidential Palace, 153 Rua do Catete, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) which houses collections of Brazil’s past since it became a republic in 1822.
Brazilian culture is quite unique, even in comparison to other South American nations. This goes much deeper than just Portuguese language and colonial influence though. Dance and music account for much of Brazil’s extravaganzas, as high importance has been placed on these features within society. However, even within this large nation, many regions of Brazil provide their own ‘twist’ on historical and modern music or dance. Some of the most popular styles that are quintessentially Brazilian include samba, chora and the new urban creation, funk.
There are even popular dances and music that have been entrenched in the nation’s culture since the African slaves. Umbanda has a massive following within many parts of the country. In addition to music, African roots are also evident through the popular martial art/dance capoeira. Visitors shouldn’t miss capoeira exhibitions, which are popularized by amazing handstands, flips and infectious beats.
People in Brazil are generally fun-loving with a friendly attitude towards foreigners. Football, dance and music are the lifeblood of the country, so it isn’t surprising that local football styles are often characterized by mesmerizing movements and a fast-paced rhythm. This ‘style’ has been successful for the national team on the world stage.
Brazil’s massive expanse, which stretches from the sixth parallel north to the 34th parallel south, incorporates a large number of climate zones. In addition, Brazil’s topography also ranges from lowland river systems to rugged alpine peaks, influencing the weather between regions. Much of northern Brazil is characterized by a quintessential equatorial climate. However, the dry season is actually quite sporadic, as the year is dominated by rainfall. Throughout the year, temperatures in the northern reaches of Brazil average between 77 and 82°F (25 and 28°C).
Indian passport holders require a valid visa to travel to Brazil with at least six month minimum validity of passport and return ticket. 2. Official and Diplomatic passport holders do not require visa to enter Brazil for a period upto 90 days.
Taxis are a common form of transportation for tourists in Brazil. Generally speaking, they are safe, reliable and very inexpensive (except in Sao Paulo), despite what you may hear. However, they rarely travel outside the major cities, so getting from one destination to another by taxi is not the norm. In Sao Paulo, Call Taxi Sao Paulo (+55-11-5071-6560) is perfect for getting to and from the airport. In Rio de Janeiro, Barca Taxi Praca XV (+55-21-2224-5713) is among the largest taxi companies in the city. All taxis, unless illegal, use meters, but don’t expect similar fares across the board, as rates change from city to city.
Even though water taxis and ferries are not found throughout all of Brazil, the Amazon region and the western coastal area around Sao Luis rely heavily on boat transport to get around. It is even possible to take a boat up the Amazon River and its tributaries to reach Peru or Venezuela. These rides are usually long and slow, but are relatively inexpensive.
Train services are generally non-existent in Brazil, except for a few overland train connections. From Curitiba to Paranagua there is a train link called the Serra Verde Express. However, it is more a tourist attraction than a commuter train, as bilingual guides and beautiful scenic views add an interesting flavor to the tourist-friendly journey.
Inner-city buses are found in most large towns and cities across Brazil. However, the system is not designed for convenience and there are many companies operating making it confusing. Maps and routes are sometimes hard to find, so asking the conductor once on board or a local while waiting, are the best ways to figure out where the bus is going. Buses have a route number on the front window, but stops are not well marked and at times, do not stop after being waived down by patrons. On the plus side, they are very cheap if you want to take your chances.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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